Anyone can organise an action as part of the campaign. Here’s how:
Step one – get in touch!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you’re planning an action. We can promote your action on the website and social media, put you in touch with other people who might be interested in getting involved, and provide ideas and resources to help. You might also want to create a Facebook event to invite people along, help with publicity and get an idea of how many people to expect.
Step two – spread the word
There are lots of ways you can promote your action and get other people involved:
- Tell everyone you know: friends, family, colleagues, neighbours, parents at your kids’ school
- Flyer your street – if you’re a private tenant, the chances are at least some of your neighbours are too.
- Put up posters in public spaces and in sympathetic shops
- Get in touch with as many local groups as you can; trade unions, sympathetic political party groups, anti-cuts groups, student unions, local campaigning groups… you never who might want to get involved.
- Set up a Twitter account and tweet, tweet, tweet using the #LetDown hashtag.
- Email any lists you might subscribe to
Step three – decide on a plan
We’ve been asking people to target local letting agents because of their role in pushing up rents, and the rip-off fees that they charge tenants (a practice that’s illegal in Scotland). You can read more about the problems with letting agents here. You may decide to target a particular letting agent if someone involved in planning your action has had a bad experience with them. You might want to do some research locally to find out which of your local letting agents charges tenants the highest fees. Or you might decide to target a number of letting agents on the same day.
Pick a date that suits you and we’ll do all we can to support you. As well as being a good day for getting people involved, Saturdays tend to be the busiest day for letting agents, so you have the potential to cause the most disruption!
The only limit to what you do is your imagination! Here are some ideas we’ve come up with:
- A community housing inspection – last year, members of Haringey Housing Action Group donned high vis jackets and visited local letting agents posing as ‘community housing inspectors’ to ask what fees they charged tenants, whether they discriminated against people on benefits, and asking for justifications/explaining the effect these unreasonable practices had on private tenants and their responsibilities ability to change things. A member of the group said “it was a fantastic way of exposing the practices and giving them a lot of bad publicity. We gave out a lot of leaflets and they were not happy when they could not have customers for quite a time when they closed their doors to us, obviously they also closed their doors to their prospective customers.” You can watch a video of the action here. You can also find copies of the leaflets and surveys the group used here – and may find that the information you collect proves useful for future campaigning.
- A housewarming party – can’t afford the rent? Then why not move into your local letting agents? In December, housing and anti-cuts activists joined forces to highlight the impacts of the housing cuts with a housewarming party, complete with net curtains, cushions and lemonade at their local branch of a well known tax-dodger.
- A shut-down – members of Edinburgh Private Tenants Action Group posed as sheriffs and cordoned off a local letting agent, designating it a crime scene due to the fees being charged by a local letting agent in Edinburgh where, under Scotish law, fees for tenants are illegal.
- A time-wasting session – looking for something a little more subtle? Arrange a team to visit one or more letting agents, being indecisive and asking as many questions as possible once you have the attention of a staff member. Before you leave, you might want to leave a calling card, explaining what you think of their rip-off fees and role in pushing up rents. A particularly good option at up-market letting agents where you may be able to blag a free drink while taking up their valuable time…
- A virtual blockade – in July, Housing Solidarity forced east London letting agents to return over £1000 of fees when they failed to secure a property for three tenants. They held a communications blockade, bombarding the office with phonecalls and black faxes at a prearranged time. Within an hour the money had been returned.
Whatever you do, you’ll probably want to scout out your target beforehand, and work out how your plans might work on the day, including whether there are accessibility issues for anyone in your group. You may want to designate somewhere else for people to meet, and then you can all go to your target together.
Step four – tell the press
Contact local media outlets ahead of your action with details of what’s going to be happening, and try and persuade them to come along to take pictures and speak to people involved. Even if they don’t show up, make sure you take some photos which you can send to them afterwards. If you need a hand, email us at email@example.com and we can advise on writing a press release and finding out local contacts.
Step five – read up on your rights
All the actions listed above passed off without any trouble, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you know your rights as a protester. Check out Activists’ Legal Project and the Green & Black Cross for legal briefings and resources, and download Activists’ Legal Project model ‘bust card’ to have handy just in case.
Step six – turn up!
As well as any props for your chosen action, you’ll probably want to take flyers (to explain what’s going on to passers-by), and some posters, placards and/or banners. Depending on what you’re planning, you might also want to take a megaphone or PA system so that you can be heard.
Make sure someone gets some good photos or even a video of your action (although be sensitive to those who don’t want to be photographed), and designate someone to post updates from your action on Twitter (using the hashtag #LetDownRenters) so the rest of the world knows what’s going on.
Even if your action feels small, you’re part of much bigger – four actions have already taken place since April as part of the campaign.
Step seven – let us know how it went
Please send your photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll post them on the website for the whole world to see!